A Pakistani scientist educated in the U.S. was sentenced to 86 years in prison Thursday for attempting to kill U.S. soldiers and federal agents in Afghanistan in 2008. Aafia Siddiqui, 38, was found guilty of all seven charges against her, including two counts of attempted murder, following a 14-day trial in Manhattan federal court in February.
According to the indictment, Siddiqui grabbed a U.S. Army officer's M-4 rifle and fired it at another officer and other members of a U.S. interview team at an Afghan police compound in July 2008. A Warrant Officer heard Siddiqui, also known as "Lady Al Qaida," shout "Allah Akbar!" before firing.
The U.S. team had traveled to Afghanistan to interview Siddiqui following her detention by Afghan authorities. The Aghans said they seized handwritten notes from Siddiqui that referred to a "mass casualty attack" in the U.S. and listed several landmarks including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The notes also detailed ways to construct "dirty bombs" and discussed ways to attack "enemies," that included "destroying reconnaissance drones, using underwater bombs, and destroying gliders."
The FBI accused Siddiqui of supporting Al Qaida although she was not charged with terrorism.
Evidence presented at trial showed Siddiqui received training in the handling and shooting of firearms while a student in Boston. Siddiqui, who earned graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University in biology and neuroscience, has denied receiving any such training or having any familiarity with firearms.
Her lawyers claimed she was mentally ill and suffered from schizophrenia, but Siddiqui has denied the claim: "I'm not paranoid. I'm not mentally sick," she told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman. Defense lawyers also alleged Siddiqui was tortured while in custody but Siddiqui herself refuted the allegation saying: "I am not sad. I am not distressed … they are not torturing me."
Islamist groups in the U.S. including the Muslim American Society have come out in support of Siddiqui claiming her "conviction is seriously flawed and her kidnapping and detention is a grave violation of human rights and international law."